The Skills Society Needs

Building, Fixing, and Growing Things

September 17, 2022

Nearly two years ago I read a blog post by Joel Salatin where he briefly mentioned the significance of being around people who knew how to build things, fix things, and grow things. I couldn't remember the rest of the article, and frankly the rest of that article is irrelevant to the one which you are reading right now because it was more of a current event focused thing while here I want to explore the idea that the world is really held together by people who build things, fix things, and grow things.

Think about it, what would happen if we got rid of entire industries?

What would happen if we got rid of law enforcement? We'd probably have a fairly violent few months of adjustment but ultimately I believe society would learn to self regulate, it probably wouldn't be too pretty and society would look different from what it does today but society would function.

What would happen if we got rid of the healthcare industry? Again we'd have an ugly few months as several people who are directly dependent on that industry would die or have a dramatically lowered quality of life, but the rest of us would be forced to look at our health much more seriously as we would realize that there is no plan B to save us, and again society would look a bit different, but it would function.

What would happen if we got rid of the banking/finance industry? People would learn to look after their own money and would possibly make the switch to cryptocurrency for online transactions, so society would function.

What would happen if we got rid of the software industry? Society would learn to be content with the technology we have now so it would continue to function in the same way it does now.

What would happen if we got rid of the lower education industry? Kids wouldn't have anywhere to go so many mothers would probably be forced back into the home and fathers would be forced to stay with their families which would actually be really great for society, unfortunately the family is too far gone in many communities in our modern world for this fantasy to ever become a reality though.

What would happen if we got rid of higher education? We'd have a lot less entitled, self-righteous people with useless degrees running around.

Things begin to change when we start to hit the industries where build fix or grow things. What happens if we get rid of the construction industry? We wouldn't be able to build new buildings to accommodate our growing population. What happens if we get rid of mechanics? Everyone's car would eventually break down along with buses, planes, heavy machinery, and everything else that runs off of an engine so we wouldn't be able to get anyone or anything where they needed to be. What happens if we get rid of farmers? We run out of food and everyone dies.

The only industry I can think of that doesn't directly involve building, fixing, or growing things whose absence would result in society collapsing is the transportation industry, but is this because truckers themselves are essential to society? No, they exist to support the people who build, fix, or grow things by giving them the materials they need to do their jobs and distribute their products. They're like guards on a football team, do they score points? No. But would the people responsible for scoring points be able to do that if they weren't there? Also no.

Pondering on these things has reshaped my view of the world a little bit and was a small factor in me making the decision to turn my back on the world of software development. It is crazy to me that we live in a world where people can work for Buzzfeed making over 60k a year writing dumb personality quizzes while having over one hundred thousand dollars in student loan debt and these people look down on "uneducated" mechanics who aren't in debt, probably make more money, and provide a service on which the world actually relies. As a joke I once wrote a program that does a Buzzfeed employee's job but no mechanic can be so easily replaced.

I spent two years of my life interacting with people in rural areas of the Philippines and over 90% of the men I met there worked in either the food, farming, fishing, construction, or transportation industry and many of them would work in all of these industries at some point in their life all while being the ones who fixed anything that broke in their own home. Most boys grow up to do the same thing their father did and live happier lives than many of us in developed nations do. The reason that I felt comfortable saying that society could function without the healthcare industry earlier is because I've seen communities that go without it. People living in extreme poverty in countries like the Philippines simply don't have access to much that modern medicine has to offer and yet their lives go on.

And really this is how society ran from the dawn of civilization up until the conclusion of the industrial revolution at the earliest and probably after World War II at the latest, nearly everyone's job revolved around either building, fixing, or growing things. Of course there were still a number of scientists, philosophers and mathematicians around but their main concerns were mostly about how to more efficiently build, fix, and grow things, the engineering behind Roman aqueducts serve as a great example of this. There were also still entertainers and artists but in western culture their work was less available to the masses and in tribal cultures the entire community would often participate in the work of entertaining. And there were of course people who worked in the church and nobility, these would have been the equivalent of white collar workers today compared to the rest of their society but, unlike today, these people made up an extreme minority of the population. For most of human history the average person's job revolved around physically building, fixing, or growing things.

I won't go so far as to say that jobs that don't deal with these kinds of things are non-essential because every job is essential to the person who holds it, but I will say that some activities are more naturally fulfilling than others. I used to drive an unreliable car and whenever I'd be fixing something on it things just felt right. Now that I own a reliable car I have to make up excuses to work on it to be able to feel that feeling again. Working with wood is satisfying, replacing a roof is satisfying, building a sturdy fence is satisfying, helping a building go up is satisfying, feeding farm animals is satisfying, planting, watering, and harvesting fields are all naturally satisfying activities. Of course I can't speak for everyone but it makes sense that the kinds of activities that man has been doing for thousands of years are the kinds of activities that would give him fulfillment, especially when compared to having to deal with TPS reports.

I can't tell you what to do with your life, I don't know what the best path for you is because I hardly know my own best path, it is up to you to do what you want with your life and to what level you consider anything that I say. But I will say that time spent learning to build, fix and grow things is worthwhile even if you never use them professionally, you should learn these skills and seek to surround yourself with people who possess them because these are the skills that were and are exercised by others which make your modern life possible. And as Joel Salatin said, "Those [skills] represent independence and true wealth."